#DVAM 2017/Does Talking About Domestic Violence Really Make a Difference?

While de-cluttering my bedroom recently, I found an old magazine that reprinted my first published article in 1993. First posted in Alaska Women Speak, later in The Radical, I wrote it about the epidemic of domestic violence.


How novel it seemed at the time to be writing about what was then considered to be a deeply personal matter. Pre-O.J.Simpson trial. Pre United States Surgeon stating that domestic violence was (then) a leading cause of injury to women in certain age brackets.

It was truly wonderful to be a part of making a positive difference. Along with the other domestic violence advocates, I got to give a series of presentations and trainings. Trainings for judges, police officers, and employers. Presentations for clergy and public assistance workers, concerned citizens, and eventually for doctors, once it was confirmed how many victims presented with mental and physical injuries that needed attention. No matter who our audience was, we encouraged people to get a little nosy. “Ask when you see injuries if you have a private moment with the possible victim. Address concerns in a non-judgmental way.” Easier said than done.

Below is from the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence.

Initiating this conversation can be difficult. Some tips to help:

Tell what you see “I noticed a bruise on your arm…”
Express concern “I am worried about you.”
Show support “No one deserves to be hurt.”
Refer them for help “I have the phone number to…”

If your friend begins to talk about the abuse:

Just Listen: Listening can be one of the best ways to help. Don’t imagine you will be the one person to “save” you friend. Instead, recognize that it takes a lot of strength and courage to live with an abusive partner, and understand your role as a support person.

Keep it Confidential: Don’t tell other people that they may not want or be ready to tell. If there is a direct threat of violence, tell them that you both need to tell someone right away.

Provide Information, Not Advice: Give them the phone number to the helpline (1.866.834.HELP) or to their local domestic violence resource center. Be careful about giving advice. They know best how to judge the risks they face.

Be There and Be Patient: Coping with abuse takes time. Your friend may not do what you expect them to do when you expect them to do it. If you think it is your responsibility to fix the problems, you may end up feeling frustrated. Instead, focus on building trust, and be patient.


This past year, I’ve had the chance to join domestic violence advocates in a number of community presentations since publishing my memoir.

Abuse in relationships is still far too common, and well over 1,000 women every year die because of it in the United States alone. Millions of kids are still being raised in homes witnessing domestic violence.

It’s natural to wonder Are we making a difference?

Then I had coffee with my friend Ruth. She used to manage the Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis (AWAIC) shelter I worked at 20 years ago and we left our jobs around the same time. Now on blood thinners, Ruth bruises like a banana.

“Does anyone ask you about the bruising?” I asked.

“All the time,” she told me. She’s been asked by friends and strangers alike if she’s okay. “Even the groundskeepers downtown have asked me if I was safe.”

So Happy 30th Birthday to Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and to all who’ve stuck their neck out to ensure we’re making progress.

I encourage you all to become a part of the conversation and part of the solution when opportunities arise. Or donate to or volunteer at your local shelter.

As a side, I’m grateful to my friends at AWAIC for honoring me for sharing my story. Without them, there would be no story.

Thanks for stopping by.

The Amazing Role of a Domestic Violence Advocate/Interview with Nicole Stanish

  “I don’t understand how you can do that work. It must be so depressing.”




You get used to hearing that sort of comment when working in the trenches of domestic violence (DV). I used to hear it a lot 20 years ago when I was a DV advocate, but now the question was posed to domestic violence advocate/program manager at Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis (AWAIC) ,Nicole Stanish, whom I worked with during some DV Awareness Month events.

She answered graciously, but later I followed up with a few questions of my own. It took her nanoseconds to respond, a sure sign of someone who loves her job.

What led you to working with domestic violence victims?

When I was 12 I read a book about Covenant House and knew that one day I would be a social worker. When I was in college, working towards my social work degree, my professor gave us an assignment to write a paper on a social service agency and she suggested that I might like AWAIC. So I interviewed the Shelter Manager for my paper and she suggested I come to volunteer training, which I did, and then I fell in love with AWAIC and began volunteering a couple of nights a week. Later, when a position opened up I applied.

What do you like best about your job?

The best part of DV work is connecting with people. I enjoy hearing people’s stories, even though they can be sad, and offering them whatever strength, compassion and understanding that I can. We are all human and we all have our struggles and people benefit the most from having a non-judgmental person support them through a hard time.

What is the worst part?

The worst part of DV work is seeing someone who has so much potential continue to go back to her abuser, back to her addictions, lose her children, and continue to spiral farther down. It is hard to have high hopes for a person only to see them continue to get into worse and worse situations. I wish that there was a way for me to transfer all of my hope and faith into them to help them succeed.

 What are some things you want people to know about how they can help?

We all have the power to make a difference. We are all humans and have struggles and fall down. And we are all capable of compassion, understanding, and the ability to reach out to someone who is having a hard time and help them.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone. If you are fortunate enough to never have had it happen to you- do not judge those who are currently experiencing it. Domestic violence is very complex and very hard to break free from. If you know someone who is living with domestic violence, just be there for them. Let them know that they deserve all the good in the world and that you will always be a person that they can turn to. Don’t give up on them.

For more ideas on how you can get involved with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, click here. Thank you to Nicole Stanish for doing great work to impact change.



A Very Big Dream for a Very Small Life/ Book Buzz for Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters


It’s the end of September, and the beginning of my dream.

Pieces of Me:Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters has found itself a home with some readers around the globe already. Thank you so much for that, and thank you also to those of who’ve reviewed it on Amazon or Goodreads. It is truly a gift.


In the past two weeks, I’ve been interviewed for television with Tracy Sinclare at KTUU  in Alaska and enjoyed speaking with Lori Townsend at Alaska Public Radio Network.






Buzzfeed included Pieces of Me in their Five Memoirs that Remind Us of the Meaning of Family and the Culturalist named it in the Top 10 Inspirational Books to Take on Your Next Journey.

Books by Women kindly published an essay I wrote about the journey to becoming an author,

None of these things would be possible without the work of Sparkpoint Studio and a receptive writing community, social media shares by family and friends, and the local community around me.

My memoir has had a promising start. And I hope it will continue to start important conversations about domestic violence.

I timed the actual book release and upcoming launch carefully. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the US, a chance to shine the light on a problem that impacts all of us, directly or indirectly. It’s a chance for victim-serving agencies to connect with the community. I’m proud to be involved and I hope you will do the same.

Click here for more information.

It was well over 20 years ago when I grabbed up my little girls and found safety at an overcrowded dormitory-style battered women’s shelter. Back then, I dreamed of safety. Then of getting my own place. Having mattresses to sleep on. Getting off food stamps. I’ve been so very fortunate that all of those dreams came true, and many more for both me and my daughters.

But there are a lot of other victims who need help. Offenders who need support and accountability to change. Children who need hope.

Before dreams can come true, the nightmares must end. All of us can make a difference.

Thanks always for stopping by. Next month, I’ll have at least one advocate serving domestic violence victims as my guest.


Domestic Violence, Our Civil War

 It’s the end of October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

thumb3I scooted back home from Australia just in time to have the honor of being interviewed by Tom Randell at KSRM Radio about my upcoming e-book, When Push Comes to Shove. How to Help When Someone You Love is Being Abused.


It was such fun to re-connect with my old friend Tom, whom I knew from high school, that I’m afraid I got off track with this topic that impacts so many.

Let me share a snippet from my e-book:

The number of troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was listed as 6,488 as of October 2014.  The number of American women killed during the same time period totaled 11, 766.

People should be safe in relationships.

Do you know someone who’s being abused?

Have them call 1-800-799-SAFE.  And as soon as my e-book becomes available, I’ll post it here.

Thanks for stopping by.

Is it Verbal Abuse or Basic Rudeness? What is the Difference?

Have you ever asked yourself if your love interest is verbally abusive, or simply experiences bouts of unfortunate humanity?

Often, we issue labels for behavior without looking at the context. I think it’s worth noting that there are differences.

To review the verbal/emotional abuse continuum below.
Does your partner
  • Embarrass you with put-downs?
  • Control what you do, who you see or talk to or where you go?
  • Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
  • Take your money or Social Security check, make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
  • Make all of the decisions?
  • Tell you that you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
  • Prevent you from working or attending school?
  • Act like the abuse is no big deal, it’s your fault, or even deny doing it?
  • Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
  • Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
  • Shove you, slap you, choke you, or hit you?
  • Force you to try and drop charges?
  • Threaten to commit suicide?
  • Threaten to kill you?

I thought about this recently when one of my adult daughters entered in to a new relationship. When I heard her new beau teased her twice for having “bad grammar” after she’d disclosed she was dyslexic to him, I was ready to mow him over.

“He’s abusive,” I told a male friend with near certainty.

When I gave him the rundown on what little I knew, my friend stopped me. “He’s still a boy. He may be 27 years-old, but he’s still just a kid. He’ll only learn how to behave better if she lets him know her limits and expectations.”

Point well-taken. We’re not born knowing how to relate appropriately. We have to learn how to relate. And it requires feedback.

There are a few ways to determine whether or not the hurtful words spoken by another are emotionally abusive, or just a gaffe.

 Domestic violence is when one person intentionally uses a pattern of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse for the purpose of controlling their partner.

Here’s what’s key.

The words have to be intentional.

The words must be a part of a pattern.  Repeated, not just one isolated incident.

Their purpose is to intimidate or control the recipient. That control could occur by wearing her down, having her second guess herself and her talents, or making her feel she isn’t capable on her own.

That’s different than just saying something mean, something we have all done at one time or another. And then there are those of us who experience compromised social skills due to a pervasive development disorder, mental health disorder, or other issue.

The bottom line?

To find out if your sweetheart is emotionally abusive, find the gumption early on to set a limit.

“I’m not stupid.  I don’t have bad grammar, and your saying so hurts my feelings.”

Then gauge the response. An apology is a good start, but it’s worthless if the insult is recurrent.

You deserve to be treated well. We all do. So set your boundaries, and observe how they’re respected by your partner. And if you determine you are experiencing any type of abuse, remember, information and support are available to you. Call 1-800-799-SAFE.

Are You Helping or Hurting? Test Your Knowledge on How You Impact Domestic Violence

It’s October again! Time for National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Did you know that

·         One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime?

·         85% of domestic violence victims are women?

·         Witnessing violence between one’s parents or caretakers is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next? http://www.ncadv.org/files/DomesticViolenceFactSheet(National).pdf)

 Back when I was a domestic violence victim’s advocate, domestic violence was the leading cause of injury to women ages 15-44 according to the US Surgeon General. That’s no longer true. Still, domestic violence continues to be a nationwide and worldwide human rights concern that has great impact on generations to come.
Think you have no impact on domestic violence if you’re not directly involved as a victim or perpetrator?  Think again.
Your knowledge about domestic violence dynamics and community resources can make a big difference to others around you.

Let’s test your knowledge and attitudes with the quiz below.

Your friend tells you that her boyfriend of five years slapped her after an argument about her spending yesterday. She wonders aloud if she should leave the relationship.  You have watched this boyfriend insult your friend in public in the past, and monitor her phone calls and her whereabouts. You

1) Tell her that you have never liked him, and she should leave the relationship immediately   since he’ll probably strike her again.

2) Encourage her to go to couple’s counseling to help her decide their future.

3) Remind her that her spending really is a source of concern.

4) Give affirming messages like, “You deserve to be treated well,” and “I’m concerned about your safety.”

5) Refer her to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.

A coworker you are friendly with has finally left her violent marriage after 18 years.  She told you she’s gotten an order of protection, and plans to file for divorce. You

1) Act as her cheerleader, telling her, “I knew you could do it! That’s so great! I’m really proud of you!”

2) Offer to set her up on a date with your single brother when the dust settles.

3) Make disparaging comments about her husband. “What kind of a man hits a woman anyhow?”

4) Remind her it’s a dangerous time after leaving a violent relationship. Tell her you will respect whatever decision she makes, and encourage her to get support from a domestic violence agency.

You have  seen the police at your next-door neighbor’s apartment on three separate occasions, but aren’t sure why. One day, you look out your window and see your neighbor hurriedly pack her children, ages 6 months and 2 years of age, into her car and back out of her driveway. She is followed by her husband on foot, who runs after them and breaks out the front windshield with a bat. Police arrive. Later, a social worker asks you to be a collateral witness. You

1) Say nothing to the social worker. You don’t want to get involved. After all, the children are young and won’t be affected.

2) Get into a lengthy conversation as to why some women are drawn to violent men.

3) Answer the questions to the best of your ability, letting the social worker know what you’ve witnessed, and reminding the social worker that you, too, could be put at risk due to the close proximity of your home to the family in question.

If you picked the last answer to each question, you’re correct.

It’s not easy giving support to a victim of domestic violence without getting emotionally drained.  But since we know violence escalates after a victim leaves their perpetrator, it’s important to connect victims with experts who can help them create an  individualized safety plan.  Not couples counselors (always contraindicated until both partners have received domestic violence intervention and the relationship has stabilized),  and not  pastors.

It’s also critical to not become emotionally invested in the victim’s choices, so she doesn’t feel pressure or disapproval should she change her mind. And it’s tempting to over-extend a helping hand, fostering dependency rather than empowerment.

Do you believe it’s impossible to impact domestic violence in your world?

The truth is, you already are. Learn as much as you can by to make sure it’s the impact  that you want.

What will you do to get involved in ending the cycle of violence?

Just Google domestic violence and the name of your community to see what events are going on for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.